I RECEIVED A WELCOME and surprising phone call at work today from my mother. "Good news," she said. "No. Surgery. Needed."
As I described in a couple of previous posts, my mother was heading toward surgery for a diagnosed partial blockage and congenital contortion of her right carotid artery. This was to come at the end of the month. She had already endured a couple of panicked moments before going for preparatory appointments with specialists, including one with a retinologist this week. Although she knew she had to have it done if it was this badly blocked and throwing clots, she was none too eager about it.
And neither was I. I was reading up on the subject, and although I have little to no background to understand the problem and its remedy, what I could comprehend scared me. This was, incidentally, psychic revenge in my mom's favor. I have given her grief over her habit of watching medical dramas and surgery shows on cable. To my thinking, I am eventually going to go to a hospital for something — why get a preview and endure all manner of stress? Aside from volunteering or for a flu shot, I'd just as soon steer way clear of all major medical institutions. However, I quickly became a hypocrite, because I looked through Gray's Anatomy for information on the carotid artery, and tormented myself by wondering if she had to have work on the seemingly more accessible external carotid or the seemingly buried internal one. And asking my mother which one the doctor might have mentioned only had to potential to alarm her further. But at least she would have had the satisfaction of seeing me confess to what I used to accuse.
Then she visited a neurologist yesterday for a scan of the vessel, which — as the provider of half the brain's blood — fell into his purview. At least she felt better about going to this appointment than the one she rescheduled at the retinologist, because much to everyone's surprise, the scan revealed no blockage at all. The artery is still showing up as being unusually curvy, but there is no reduction in blood flow whatsoever to indicate an occlusion.
Upon being told this, my mother began crying. All the tension and fear she was bottling up flooded out in tears of relief. The doctor tried to comfort her, saying she didn't need to cry due to good news. But she did, really. And better this anxiety should flow away this way, neutralized in salty water, than in the form of a panic attack or worse.
The neurologist's opinion is that the clot in her eye — whatever its source — could have been prevented by a regimen of aspirin. Mom was put on a daily aspirin recently, so it is our hope that this, along with a statin, will reduce the odds of any further plaque dislodging. She has gotten a couple of nosebleeds recently, to which she was subject to begin with and which now seem to be more frequent. Frankly, I think I can speak for her in saying that even a weekly nosebleed is preferable to the prospect of general anesthesia and having a carotid filleted. So she is going to contact the cardiologist and regretfully inform him that, despite his wonderful staff and his excellent bedside manner, she will opt out of surgery.
Naturally, I expressed my extreme relief and congratulated her for this wonderful turn of fortune. I did silently wonder just what in fact was going on in that sneaky little artery, but I was too relieved to have her back out from under the knife to venture any of these misgivings. It would have been one thing for me, a 36-year-old, to say "fuck it" and have them dig in. I am younger and more resilient than my mother, and if I had sufficient evidence to support a 70% blockage at my age, then hell yes I'm having the damn think opened, reamed, sewn up, and sealed with a kiss. My mother cannot afford to be so cavalier.
While I had her on the phone, I finally told her about Nick's passing. I said I was still going to my scheduled checkup in May, not only because of her experience, but because . . . and I told her the whole story. I said I didn't tell her at the time, even while I was upset and could have used another ear to bend with this, because the last thing she needed was to hear about a 43-year-old stricken down so suddenly. Indeed, she was deeply appreciative that I held back, and duly stunned at the details.
So that's how things stand. A cardiac scan a week ago showed normal flow through her coronary arteries, so who the hell knows where the fucking plaque came from in the first place. Maybe there is something somewhere. Maybe drugs and aspirin will control or even safely reduce it, and she will live until 90 and go down swinging against the Grim Reaper with a More Menthol in one hand and an upraised middle finger on the other. All I know at this point is that she will spend a very relaxed weekend for the first time since February, one that she, as a retiree from both the workforce and the role of active kid-wrangler, has most certainly earned.